In Honor of Memorial Day, Past and Present
There was a special mood that enveloped Americans in the latter half of the 19th century. Henry Seidel Canby, author of the Age of Confidence, termed it a time when people “really believed all they heard on the Fourth of July.” Symbols such as the American Flag, the eagle, Miss Liberty, and images of patriotic heroes, such as Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Jefferson Davis were proudly displayed on both utilitarian and decorative objects. Holidays, such as the Fourth of July and Decoration Day, the birthdays of patriotic figures and the anniversaries of historical events were enthusiastically celebrated with parades, speech-making, and pageantry. The Americans of the late 19th and early 20th centuries believed without a doubt that their country was better than anywhere else, that it was just the way they wanted it and it would be the same forever, Canby concluded, “for the last time in living memory everyone knew exactly what it meant to be an American.”
It is my hope that Americans can recapture this mindset again. Go to your local Memorial Day parade and cemetery service. Lay flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes. Put out your flags – and thank a veteran for his service!